Praise is an essential part of worshipping God. We don’t approach our heavenly Father only to ask more of Him, but also to remember not only what He has already given us, but also Who He is. We praise Him simply for being God, our faithful Father, our loving Creator, our righteous King.
How can we praise Him with worthy words? Let’s take the example of King David’s psalms.
Wednesday in the Word
Come with me as I walk through a passage of Scripture phrase by phrase, reviewing its context, interpreting, and offering an application. Some of us - including me - learn best by watching somebody else. That’s what I am inviting you to do today as I study through Psalm 103:
1 Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6 The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.
19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Praise the Lord, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the Lord, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
Psalms are part of the “wisdom literature” genre of the Bible. Essentially, they are poems or songs for God. As you learned in English class long ago, a poem is interpreted differently than a short story. Genre matters.
While we will still track David’s train of thought today as he praises God, we will also bring in another Bible study trick that will help us praise God like David. More about that in a moment.
First, let’s follow David’s train of thought.
Verses 1&2 David challenges himself to praise God with his whole being and not to forget God’s “benefits” - His character and His actions towards us.
Verses 3-7 David remembers what the Lord does for us.
Verse 8 David begins to describe the character of God.
Verses 9-13 David remembers that God, even though He has the right to be angry with us because of our sin, is instead incredibly loving, removing our sins far from us. He describes God as a compassionate Father to those who follow Him.
Verse 14 One of my favorite verses is when David mentions that God always remembers what we are ultimately made of: dust. God created us, and He knows we are just human. While He holds us to a high standard, He has the compassion of a Father towards us - a Father who knows His children need to be instructed with grace because even with their hearts focused on Him, they will fail to obey time and time again. I find this an incredible relief.
Verses 15-18 David muses about how fleeting each of our lives is. However, God’s love remains throughout generations for those who follow His will.
Verses 19-21 David notes that not only does God’s love abound on earth but also in heaven. The angels and heavenly hosts praise Him alongside of us.
Verse 22 One last time, David admonishes everything in heaven and on earth - everything in God’s dominion - to praise Him. And where does that start? With ourselves. So he reminds himself one last time: Praise the Lord, my soul.
In order to pause and consider more closely everything for which David is praising God, let’s assemble two lists: "What God Has Done for Us" & "Who God Is". David praises God for these, and we would do well to do the same. Why not pick a few of these every day and incorporate them into your prayer time.
List 1: What God Has Done for Us
- He forgives our sins (verse 3).
- He heals our bodies (verse 3).
- He has saved us from hell (verse 4).
- He blesses us with love and compassion (verse 4).
- He satisfies us so deeply that it’s invigorating (verse 5).
- He will deliver justice for the oppressed (verse 6).
- He has revealed His character and deeds to us (verse 7).
- He will not forever accuse or be angry with us for the sins we have committed against Him (verse 9).
- He does not treat us the way we deserve to be treated or seek to punish us for our sins (verse 10).
- He has cleansed us from our sins (verse 12).
- He has the compassion of a Father who knows His children will sometimes fail to obey (verses 13-14).
- His love for His followers prevails over generations (verse 17).
Pause here for a minute and go back over this list. Can you imagine one of these missing? What if God didn’t forgive us? What if He hadn't saved us from hell? What if He had never revealed Himself to us? We would be lost and helpless. Let’s not allow God’s grace to become stale truth, but rather let’s continually praise Him for what He had done for us.
List 2: Who God Is
- He is just (verse 6).
- He is compassionate (verse 8).
- He is gracious (verse 8).
- He is slow to anger (verse 8).
- He overflows with love (verse 8).
- He loves His followers beyond our imagination (verse 11).
- He is worthy of praise in heaven and on earth (verse 22).
Many believers struggle to regularly praise God for His character alone when praying. Our focus is often on ourselves and our needs - whether in requesting a blessing or praising Him for one. Practice praising God for Who He is - a just, compassionate, loving God.
How do you remind yourself to praise God in prayer? Here is a man-made acronym that helps many believers not to skip this step in prayer:
A- Adoration: Praise God for Who He is.
C- Confession: Confess your sins to God.
T- Thanksgiving: Thank God for what He has done.
S- Supplication: Bring your requests before God.
It’s not a mandate to follow this structure in your prayer, so don’t allow it to become a burden on you. However, use it as an aid to help you remember to focus on God and praise Him continually!
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